For Testing of Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities
Reading Memorial High School was the site for one of four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) press conferences held around the nation on Thursday, October 10. EPA Region 1 Administrator Dennis Deziel announced that Massachusetts would be receiving a federal grant for $967,000 to support the testing of drinking water in Massachusetts school and daycare facilities. The funding is a part of the National Water Infrastructure Improvement Act which aims to reduce children’s exposure to elevated lead in drinking water. “The EPA is firmly committed to taking actions to address kids’ lead exposure,” Deziel explained. “[The funding] is a significant action to protect children from lead in drinking water.” he continued. Reading was chosen as a site for the press conference to recognize its role as a model of leadership for testing water in schools and responding to drinking water issues.
Deziel also announced updates that the EPA is proposing to the “lead and copper rule.” These proposed updates, while retaining an action level for lead in water at fifteen parts per billion, will seek to create a new trigger level at only ten parts per billion. According to Deziel, this will allow for more and quicker responses to lead issues in water. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Executive Director Martin Laske agreed stating that, “Lead in water is a horrible, but preventable situation.” The proposed updated rule would also require utilities to inventory their lead pipe infrastructure and share these inventories with the public.
Massachusetts State Treasurer Deb Goldberg shared that the funds will be used to enhance the work of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, which through the Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program, has overseen over 100,000 water tests in 1,000 Massachusetts schools already, with the combined help of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the MWRA. Goldberg expressed how impressed she was with the reaction and response that Reading took to lead in its water. “Reading has hit it out of the park,” Goldberg exclaimed.
Superintendent of Schools John Doherty closed the press conference, commenting on the level of cooperation between town departments that Reading enjoys and affirmed that, “It is our ultimate goal to eliminate lead and copper from our schools’ water. We believe that we will be able to achieve that goal.” Doherty concluded.